Stephanie Schawbe

Women in STEM
Women in STEM
Stephanie Schawbe

Birth:  January 1, 1957

Specialty: Geomicrobiology

Major Contributions:

Discovered unique life system found only in black freshwater holes in the Bahamas

Name one of top 40 divers in the world by Diver International

2004 “Women of Discovery Courage Award,” Wings WorldQuest

Image Courtesy of Robert Palmer Blue Holes Foundation

Considered one of the 40 best divers in the world, Dr. Stephanie Schwabe has been diving for over thirty years both in underground caves and open waters.

Earning a bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston in 1990, she began a master’s program at the University of Mississippi shortly thereafter and was awarded a Master of Science in geology two years later. As part of her work on this degree she began cave diving in the Bahamas and met her future husband and diving partner Robert Palmer.

1999 was a big year for Schwabe. Not only did she complete her doctorate at the University of Bristol in the UK, but she was the first scientist to dive into the Black Hole of Andros-a vertical cave that forms from the top down and has no connection to the sea. It is due to its make up that it looks black from above but is actually very clear water. The color of the cave comes from a meter thick layer of bacteria at a depth of nearly 18 meters that also generates extremely high temperatures. Dr. Schwabe discovered a species of purple sulfur bacteria, Allocromatium palmerii, as part of this anaerobic layer and was named a NASA fellow in exo-biology for this discovery.

In 2003 she expanded her work to International Environmental Law earning a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Queensland, Australia. She has been a faculty member at the College of Charleston, the University of San Diego, and the University of Kentucky teaching courses in geology, environmental policy and leading field expeditions to the Bahamas.

In December 1994 she and her husband founded the Blue Holes Foundation and since the death of her husband in 1997 she has acted as its director. The renamed Robert Palmer Blue Holes Foundation’s purpose is to facilitate research, exploration, education, and preservation of the underwater caves in the Bahamas. Schwabe has been part of over 40 diving expeditions to the Bahamas, been the subject of master’s and doctoral research and worked with crews from many nations for film and television work.

Written by Angela Goad


Robert Palmer Blue Holes Foundation: About Stephanie Jutta Schwabe

Wikipedia: Stephanie Schwabe

University of Kentucky: Underwater Cave Diving in the Bahamas: Stephanie Schwabe

See Also:

Stephanie Schwabe (YouTube)

Blue Holes Foundation YouTube Channel